Tales from Sark’s World: The Trinity Syndrome Myth

I love creating new characters.

From the fantastical to the “ordinary”, I always enjoy taking an idea of someone and developing them into someone who might have character and be interesting.

About a month ago, after developing some ideas for the Infinatum set at the end of the 19th century, I realized I could potentially have some old-school characters a la The Phantom, Spring-Heeled Jack, Doc Savage, etc. that existed during the same time. Soon, I had a few solo characters, a group of global adventurers, even some baddies.

That’s not to say they are fully realized, fleshed out, and totally awesome, but I have a good foundation to create something further down the line, when I can put them into action.

The reason I’m bringing up this subject is due to a blog I recently read about something called the “Trinity Syndrome”.

According to the writer of this blog, the Trinity Syndrome refers to the creation of a strong female character who, after her strong introduction, does nothing for the rest of the story. The blogger rattled off a bunch of recent movies where the token “Strong Female Character” shows up, does bad-ass things, then becomes meek, redundant, the victim, the sexual object, or plays second-banana to the main character.

Now, being a guy, I’m probably totally wrong about anything I say relating to women because I’ve never been objectified, or lived in fear of the opposite sex.

But shit like that never stopped be before from speaking my mind.

Back in the 90’s, when the first Mortal Kombat movie came out, I was lucky enough to see a sneak preview of the movie. Towards the end, after Sonya Blade is captured, we see her tied up in the bad guy’s palace, in some god-awful dress and her hair all teased-up. The whole audience groaned at that sight. Sonya Blade went from the equal of Johnny Cage and Liu Kang, to being some dolled-up tart in a lame-ass dress.

If anything, the “Trinity Syndrome” should be called the “Sonya Blade Syndrome”.

The reason for this is because, suddenly, and very glaringly, a strong character went from bad-ass to lame-ass. If her character was so bad-ass, it should have shown her fighting off the bad guy when he took her. Of course, her being defeated by the bad guy probably would have raised a whole different kettle of fish, about violence against women or something like that.

Besides The Matrix, the blogger also mentions a few recent movies, like Pacific Rim, Riddick, and Star Trek Into Darkness as examples of so-called “Strong Female Characters” not being used to their full potential. Katee Sackhoff’s character in Riddick is bad-ass, but then becomes sexually objectified and has no plot relevance. The character of Carol Marcus in ST Into Darkness, a supposedly strong character who later strips down for Captain Kirk for some unknown reason. Rinko Kikiuchi’s character in Pacific Rim is weak and traumatized by past events, thus making her a victim that needs saving.

I was puzzled at first, until I realized this was one person’s opinion. I also realized that the movies mentioned weren’t called “Trinity” Saviour of Zion”, or “Katee Sackhoff’s Riddick rip-off”, or that Carol Marcus had suddenly become the main character of the Star Trek universe. In short, they weren’t the main characters! They were plot devices to move the story along.

Katee Sackhoff’s character was pretty minor, granted. But the movie IS called “Riddick”. What about Dave Batista’s character in Riddick? It seemed his only purpose was to look big and intimidating. Yet you don’t see him crying at his bank machine when he cashed his check. The blogger complained about Carol Marcus, but she wasn’t a main character. How about Zoe Saldana? She’s one of the main characters of the ensemble of the franchise. How come the blogger didn’t mention her? As for Rinko Kikiuchi’s character in Pacific Rim, the blogger complains about the blandness of previous “strong female characters”, but when one is created with flaws that she must over-come, which she does, the blogger calls her weak and a victim. All I’ll say about the character Trinity in the Matrix movies, never once did I see her suddenly become weak, get captured and dolled-up in a lame-ass dress. She wasn’t weak, or pointless. She helped the main character discover who he was. She bad-ass all the way.

Maybe that was the point the blogger missed. These, and the other “strong female characters” mentioned weren’t the main character. Maybe if they were, the blogger’s point would have been moot. Maybe the blogger should watch movies like “Colombiana”, or “Leon The Professional”. Maybe the blogger should write their own movie with the kind of “strong female character” they desire.

That’s what I try to do.

But I just don’t focus on making the female characters strong. I focus on making all my characters interesting. In reality, men and women, good or bad,  and everyone in between, strengths, weaknesses, personalities, beliefs, flaws, etc. Regardless of the character’s sex, they have to be real. The reader has to know the character a bit, see who they are and how they act. The reader must relate to them. Failing that, the reader must like or hate them, thus forcing them to wonder what they will do next. That way they keep reading.

In my opinion, there is always room for improvement for the “strong female character”. How about a women becoming “The Crow”! Maybe a serious, female version of “Die Hard”! But until then, I think there are already “strong female characters”, you just have to think about what you are seeing instead of taking them at face-value.


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